Reflecting on Bonhoffer

09.17.10 | Cecil Van Houten | Comments[4]

It's been gratifying to read the responses to my last blog and I've been amazed at the number of readers who could identify with the issue of depression I experienced.  What was especially encouraging was people conversed with one another, offering helpful suggestions and support through prayer; being ministered to and ministering to each other.  In a microcosm, what the body of Christ is all about.

So we just got back from vacation in Williamsburg, Virginia.  The days weren't packed dawn to dusk with activity.  In fact, we planned to do very little other than relax.  One of the things I did want to do was read some of the books that have been piling up over the last few months.  (Even though I didn't read during much of the depression, I kept buying books knowing that I'd read them eventually.  Oh, and no Kindle or iPad for me.  I'm an old-fashioned, hold it in my hands and turn the pages kind of guy...but that's another blog.)

One of the things I read was this, from Dietrich Bonhoffer:

   "If we follow this way as one we follow in obedience to an external command, if we are afraid of ourselves all the time, it is indeed an impossible way.  But if we behold Jesus Christ going on before us step by step, we shall not go astray.  If we worry about the dangers that beset us, if we gaze at the road instead of at him who goes before, we are already straying from the path.  For he is himself the way, the narrow way, and the strait gate.  He, and he alone, is our journey's end."

Wow.  I haven't been able to get that last sentence out of my mind.  It reminds me of Paul's words to the Philippians, "Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do:  forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

No matter who we are, where we come from, what kind of family life we have or when we first began to follow Jesus, we are all on a journey through life.  And it can be an uncertain path.  There are times of great blessing and joy and times of loss and sorrow.  Relationships change, not always for the good.  Our values are questioned.  Busy schedules push us to the brink.  Sometimes the road is narrow or solitary or hazardous and it can be a challenge to stay on the path.  That's life in a fallen world.  But...we are not alone.  Jesus not only walks with us, he is our destination as well.  

What I'm learning is that the key is not to waver.  To keep our focus not on the road or the things that distract us but on the one we follow.  To "press on" and not lose hope.  To have faith in a world that scorns belief and to trust when trusting seems to make no sense.  Is it easy, even on the best of days?  No, and I slip off the path regularly.  But is it imperative to press on toward that goal?  Absolutely. 

Bonhoffer's words are a reminder to us all that while God's grace is a gift we freely receive, it comes at a great cost.  And what it requires of us is nothing less than everything.  


Your Comments(please keep them on topic and polite)

on 09.25.10 Randy Negley commented

Cecil, Thank you for reminding us that we need Jesus to walk with us every step of the way each and every day through life as we press on for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

It makes me think of the southern gospel lyrics from the Booth Brothers' song entitled "Every Step I Take".

"When I woke up this mornin’
Spent some time with you
A prayer of devotion
I thought would get me through
But very soon I stumbled
Before much time had passed
My prayer of devotion
Just didn’t seem to last
Every step I take
I want to take with you
Every move I make
Lord I want to make with you
I thought a prayer this mornin’
Would get me through the day
But a daily walk is not enough
I need you every step I take.
Now I pray for guidance
All throughout the day
And I pray for loved ones
Who do not know the way
And I’m always listening
For the times you call
I know when I am near you Lord
It makes it hard to fall."

on 09.28.10 Gail commented

Cecil, it was sometime after college when I picked up one of Bonhoffer's books and it changed my life. I realized how many of my assumptions about life and faith were merely constructs of the culture and church environment I grew up in. As you said, Jesus is not only the way, He is the end goal we all strive to reach. Being faithful to the call means more than following rules or conforming to expectations others place on us. It means responding to the clear call of the Gospel on our lives and following that wherever it leads us. God bless.

on 09.30.10 Curt M. commented

When I read Bonhoffer I felt like I was a pampered Christian living in the land of plenty. The struggles he endured for his faith are nothing like what I have dealt with. Then later I realized that God had put me where he did and what mattered was living for him without feeling guilty about the lack of suffering in my life. God can use all of us for his glory if we're sold out to him, whether we're called to be a martyr like Bonhoffer or just an average Joe Christian.

on 10.05.10 Mary commented

Cecil - you have shared a part of yourself that most people try to keep private. Thank you - you have helped many.
I wrote a song based on 'Footprints in the Sand', which talks about our journey in life. So comforting to know we aren't alone.

You lift me up, hold me tight,
high upon Your shoulders.
You take me through the darkest night
To see the morning light take over
The peace I have, the strength I feel
The hope that keeps me going
Are not my own but they come from You
You are the footprints in the sand...

In the sand, in the sand of life,
You are the footprints in the sand.
They're not my own but they come from You
As You take me by my hand.
I need not fear what life can bring
For You hold me in Your arms.
I'm so glad You are the footprints in the sand.

I'm not alone when I go my way
You are always close beside me
I need not fear when troubles come
For You clear the way before me
You comfort me, You take my hand
You promise You won't leave me
Your Word is true and I trust in You
You are the footprints in the sand...

When the time has come and I've reached the end
And I look back on my journey
To see the path I had to take
With unknown storms around me
You lifted me, carried me
High upon Your shoulders
You gave the light to shine the way
You were the footprints in the sand...

There will be many times in our lives when we see only one set of footprints, but we can be assured that during those hard times in life, it is then that He is carrying us!